Temporary only child

Maria has now been gone for 10 straight days. She has reached out to Jon or I maybe two times over that period. She is loving life with her grandma and her cousin as they engage in a road tour of the South to visit their cousin in Savannah. I am grateful for Patty giving the girls this experience. I’ve seen Instagram photos of Tybee Island, the Savannah Riverwalk, homemade pizzas, and Gatlinburg. I cannot wait to hear the handfuls of stories when she comes home.

Meanwhile, Jon and I were left with a single child: Mario. It is initially strange to have only one child in the house but after a few days, it starts to become the norm. It’s as though she’s off at college – we miss her here and there but know she’s doing her thing. When Ri has been gone a few days, Mario visited me at work. We were riding the elevator down to my first floor lobby when he commented “yea, it’s kind of nice being the only child.” He gets all the attention. He doesn’t have Ri bossing him around. He can eat whatever he wants (Jon has little oversight).

He is a fun kid, and we enjoy hanging together. We played a lot of one on one basketball outside (and mini-hoop inside); hit the pool with Jon; went to my work and got Nutella sticks (his favorite); walked the pup; and played baseball.

He asked to travel to Cincinnati with me this past weekend to see Sarah read from her book at Joseph Beth bookstore. He didn’t even complain when I made him listen to a StoryCorps podcast with me for 30 minutes on Ghetto Life. At one point during the podcast, Jon called, so the podcast stopped. After I got off the phone with Jon, I looked at him and asked if he was ready to stop the podcast? He shook his head no and told me to keep playing it. I’m not sure whether he was truly into it or whether he just wanted to make me happy. He is super affectionate with me – even at age 10- and enjoys making me smile.

I took him on a tour of my old Clifton neighborhood. He got to see Calhoun Street and the house that I lived in for a few years on Fairview Avenue. He even indulged me and got out in the 90° heat to take the steps down to the park. Unfortunately, the steps were covered with tall weeds and grasses so we could not make it down. He also got to experience Findlay Market – a place I went to every once in a while with my mom but is a mecca for my sister. She often went there with my mom as a young girl. She and Jorge were sipping on coffee when we arrived. We walked around to the sellers’ stands and checked out what they had to offer. Mario noticed a guy selling fedoras. He was a large black man sitting on a stool with a sweet-looking tan fedora on his head. He looked at Mario and chuckled “you got a little head boy. I don’t think my fedoras will fit you!” Mario smiled and tried one on anyway. Sure enough, it fit pretty good. The man looked at Mario and started laughing. “Well, you proved me wrong, son. Your head is bigger than I thought!”

We bought that fedora up in no time as we chatted it up with the gregarious seller. We then headed over to the succulent plant stand and bought me a couple of succulents. Mario encouraged me to stop when I hesitated in the walkway telling him I really didn’t need one. “Come on mom, they are cheap and they make you happy.”

After the market, we headed to the Underground Railroad Museum. What a powerful place. Mario walked around with me reading about historical slavery, reading about the abolitionists, and reading about modern slavery. He had so many questions around the modern slavery exhibit as it relates to sweat shops in Third World countries and human trafficking. I was brutally honest with him and we had a good conversation outside on the balcony.

After the museum, we had about an hour before we had to head to the bookstore. Sarah invited us to go to their hotel pool. Mario begged me to do it. Of course, I would allow him, I just did not want to go in myself. But he suckered me into it and so we sat in the hot tub and swam in the pool together before the bookstore.

He was a gem at the bookstore, taking care of his cousins and talking with my family members. He enjoyed hanging out with his boy cousins who always roughhouse with him. He also got to see Rod’s new red Corvette. He found a couple of books that looked interesting, and asked if I would get them. My Aunt Julie, the teacher, had a gift card for the bookstore and gave it to me in order to buy his books. What a doll. On the way home, I made him read a few pages from his new book. Then, I allowed him to watch his YouTube videos while we ate Wendy’s burgers driving up I-71.

Never slow down

I can’t help it. It comes naturally. My dad can’t sit still for more than a few minutes before thinking of the next place to go or task to complete. My mom gets antsy when she’s sitting around too long and takes the dog out for another walk. My aunt Julie does housework if she’s got a spare moment rather than relaxing with a book. So, I blame my constant motion on genetics.  And I have certainly passed it on to Ri and Mario. 

We spent our Saturday moving from one activity to the other – in constant motion and flow. We decided to hit Cincinnati on Saturday since we had not visited my mom in a while. I came home from my morning workout to Ri and Mario eating delicate plates of French toast. Ri whipped up her signature dish using hot dog buns and strawberries for a twist. I need to enter her in a kids’ chef competition.

After I showered, I found them outside – Ri on her skates and Mario thinking up an obstacle course. We spent 30 minutes running through several different courses made up by both kids. When one was doing the course, the other was playing the mean coach role pushing the other to squat down lower and jump higher. Ahhh, I’ve trained them well. 

After they had enough obstacle fun, they turned to me and said “let’s head to Cincy!” They grabbed blankets to use as sleds for grandma’s stairs and snacks to eat along the way (yep, like I said, I trained them well). We loaded up their play scripts and The Last Unicorn DVD and we were off. We didn’t even make it through the movie before we arrived at my mom’s house. She lives so close now. 

The kids jumped out of the truck and ran inside to say hi to grandma and grandpa and Lou. After the initial greeting, they ran straight up the steps for their stair sledding. Ri rocked it on her first try flying down each step. Mario, not so much. He could not get the swing of it and kept stopping at every step. Of course, he took it with stride and just kept trying. 


He got more and more frustrated to the point of nearly giving up. But Ri remained patient and caring and continued to try new positions that may help him fly. She finally nailed a position and off he went!

She, of course, continued to engage in all sorts of crazy poses since she had the speed down pat.

My mom had sent a picture of herself in a steam tent she bought during the holidays. Maria has been obsessed with this steam tent since she saw the picture. She was so excited to try it out. I didn’t think Mario would have an interest at all. However, I think Maria’s excitement seeped through Mario’s skin and he begged to try it, too. My mom got them towels and we headed to the basement. Ri went in first. 

“Ahh, this is so relaxing. I could meditate in here.”

I knew she’d love it. We made her get out after a few minutes because the steam is taxing. She looked like a lobster as she climbed out. Mario didn’t waste a second and hopped in after her. He loved it. When he climbed out, he touched all over his face.

“All my pimples are gone and my skin is so smooth.”

It’s all about looks for him. The kids also tried mom’s facial steamer. Again, Mario did it over and over because he believed it was curing the “pimples” on his face (the boy has the clearest skin ever). 

After the kids were all steamed up, we headed to the Whipdee Doo. It reminded me of the Dairy Whip we used to go to in Reading with my grandma and aunts. There were two little windows to order and a bunch of picnic tables out back. They had every topping available. Ri and I thought we’d died and gone to heaven. Waffle cone sundaes with cookie dough and hot fudge and Reese pieces….

After devouring our ice cream, and the kids scaring Grandma by telling her they were going to rearrange the letters on the Whipdee Doo sign to spell “poop”, we took off to the bike trail. Ri had her skates and Mario had his bike. The trail was magical. The river flowed to our left and pastures of bright yellow flowers undulated in the distance. We stopped at a creek and the kids played on the rocks and on the bridge.

As if it couldn’t be any more idyllic, my mom called out that deer were crossing the bike path. We scurried up the creek bed and caught a glimpse of one of the deer crossing. The kids quietly skipped down the river bank to get a closer look. 
We let them roam around in the pasture, all the while wondering whether deer can be aggressive when confronted. Oh well, if they can, the kids will learn….
After the deer viewing, the kids wanted to head back for another round of steaming. Addicted. And after the steaming came more stair sledding. They kept trying to create funnier slo-mo videos with each slide. 

We ended the day with a mini Easter egg hunt in my mom’s backyard. In typical mom-like fashion, she wanted to make sure the kids got a $5 egg if they didn’t come down for Easter. 

One more slide down the steps and we were off to Columbus. The kids were able to read a few of their lines before darkness hit and we only had the flourescent, towering highway lights to lead our way home. 

I engaged in the annual hmmming and hawing over what to get the kids this year. I torture myself by overthinking what they may want, what they do want, what they should get in order not to spoil them, what they should get to spoil them….

I long for the days they were babies and toddlers. It was so simple! I could get ten $1 toys, wrap them, and we’d be set Christmas morning. This year was especially strange because they really didn’t “want” for anything.  Realistically, they should never “want” for anything since they have all of life’s necessities at their disposal and much more; but alas, they are kids bombarded by advertisements friends with cool gadgets.  Maria had been begging for an iPhone 7 for her birthday but she cooled her heels about one for Christmas.  I think I assisted her in this change of heart by talking about how I believed experiences were more special than “things.”  I asked her what she remembered more – her new iphone she received two holidays ago or her trip to Oaxaca.  Oaxaca without a doubt.  

Mario was even perplexed about what he wanted – at first it was an Apple computer, then any type of computer, then a pug puppy, then any type of puppy.  At one point, Maria talked with him about the experiences bit and almost had him convinced to just wish for them and not ask for any “things.” But Mario couldn’t quite get there at age 9; he still wanted to open gifts on Christmas.

And there lies the dilemma  – as a parent, do you put your foot down and re-purpose Christmas to the holiday it should be: a holiday about giving to others and appreciating family, and sacrifices made, and peace, and love, and goodwill?  Or do you give “things” that the kids can madly unwrap on Christmas morning? Tradition gets the best of me and I inevitably err on the side of “things”.  However, this year I did not go as overboard as years’ past and tried to mix the things with some experiences.  Oaxaca will be a destination for us in 2017 as well as DC.  I also want to take some good camping trips.

We asked Santa to stick with a room décor theme for Ri this year.  She got a new desk and hutch, dresser and nightstand as well as some pictures and framed quotes.  Mario got a new Dell computer in order to vlog and listen to his jams.  He also got some Cowboys attire since that is his new favorite team thanks to Ezekiel Elliott).  I ended up getting him a dresser, too, since I found one for cheap on line, and he has never had one before. Yeah, not kidding.  He has just used the three tiny drawers in his steps going up to his bed. Of course, I ordered all the kids’ furniture on line so Jon and I get to assemble it ourselves.  We worked on the dresser the day after Christmas and 3 hours later, we were still slaving over it.  I was ready to ship the assembly off to a contractor but was not ready to pay $150 so we kept working. We finally finished 2 hours later, and now we can walk in Mario’s room and admire our work….

Maria’s desk and hutch was a bit easier to assemble, thank god.  I actually assembled the hutch all by myself; I screwed all the parts in backwards and had to dis-assemble it all and start over, but I finally got it.  It does feel good to know that you built something from scratch (especially when you are typically inept at such creations).  And I now know what a cam screw is!

We enjoyed Susie’s house for Christmas Eve.  Patty drove down with us this year and we first stopped at my mom’s to exchange gifts.  Patty got to admire her new home, and my mom got to ask Patty about her potential new home in Marietta.  My mom enjoys the company.  The kids loved on Lou and took a few trips down the stairs in their comforters before begging to open presents.  They got spoiled beyond belief: Mario got a desk chair and Ri got new boots.  Rocco got a new hedgehog playmate (which he did not destroy within the first ten minutes of playing with it – miracle).

The kids loved playing with Cy and Robert at Susie’s house.  They ran around and around with them playing with nerf guns and wrestling.  The fun had to cease when Cy turned to run away from Mario and rammed his head on the dip in the ceiling.  He got a nice gash.  Jane and Olivia rushed him to Urgent Care and a few staples later he was good as new.  It’s not a Heile party until someone starts bleeding.  The kids also love participating in the White Elephant game.  Mario got a puzzle and was less than impressed.  He had his eyes on a bag that had a Polo watch and a pair of “USA” socks in it because he thought they would be the perfect gifts for his dad.  He was finally able to steal the bag after Aunt Julie helped him out and took his puzzle. Ri scored a Starbucks card.

Ri and Mario loved holding baby Harper. Mario thoroughly enjoyed it for about three minutes and then was ready to move on. Ri would have held her all night.

We all sang Christmas carols with Aunt Susie towards the end of the night – one of the highlights of the evening.  Susie plays the piano while we try our best to keep a tune.

Mario was the first to get up on Christmas morning at 7 am.  We made him wait until 7:30 to wake Maria up.  We laid in bed trying to prepare for the day ahead. At 7:29, Mario woke up Ri and they both walked into our room commanding us to awaken and head downstairs.  Patty had been up since 6 am, and was showered and ready to head out to church.  Ri distributed the gifts to everyone, and the opening began. Big smiles planted on their faces.  It took about 45 minutes to get through gifts this year, which was pleasantly longer than last year.  I swear we were done opening presents in 10 minutes last year.

The kids were more mature this year in both the approach to opening presents and in the actual opening of the presents.  In years’ past, they would have been up at 6 am and jumping on our bed incessantly until we arose and trekked down the steps with them.  They would have been shaking each present and thinking heavily about which one to open first.    They would have torn through them in seconds unable to soak in appreciation for each gift one at a time.  But this year, they wokr at a reasonable hour. They waited patiently as we got on our sweatshirts and brushed our teeth.  

They still showed enthusiasm, when passing out the gifts under the tree but it was a more measured, calm enthusiasm.  They carefully tore the wrapping paper off their gifts and took their time scanning each present.  And they showed appreciation for each gift (even if it wasn’t something they particularly wanted (i.e., hats and gloves).

So here we are, setting up a computer and a desk  rather than a train set or a Barbie house.  The day was bound to arrive at our doorstep.  But I am going to work hard to celebrate it rather than bemoan it.  True, my babies are growing up and no longer require constant attention, and I miss that greatly. But my babies are growing up and no longer require constant attention, and I must appreciate that as well. 

I just wish we could go back to ten $1 gifts….

Downtown Cincy

There are certain things about Cincy I miss. A friend posted this video of artists in downtown Cincinnati, and it made me nostalgic for my hometown. Columbus’ downtown has no where near the history and richness.

I remember taking Maria and Mario down to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in downtown Cincy this year and the awe in their eyes at the stadiums and fountain and skyscrapers. They were intrigued with stories of me sitting in old Riverfront Coliseum rooting the Reds on and heading to the garage after the game to gather autographs. They were amazed when I told them I used to take a bus downtown and go to the library (they asked if it had vending machines like ours). Their favorite thing was Fountain Square and throwing pennies into the fountain.

I wish we could have been there to watch and dance with those uplifting artists.


Pushing away

Maria refuses to come home.  She has been in Cincinnati since Friday morning when Maggie drove her down.  Just six months ago, she would have cried for her mama after one night.  Now, she tells me to stay in Columbus and not come get her.  I can see why – she is getting pedicures and manicures from Aunt Ann, time to babysit Gracie, trips to garage sales with Aunt Julie and Terrie, and attention from her grandma and all of her cousins and other aunts.  Columbus cannot compete.

It is yet another step towards independence just like her desire to ride her bike up the street all by herself.  I remember dreaming about this type of independence when she was two and a half-years old throwing her binky at me one minute and pulling on me to hold her the next.  But now it doesn’t feel quite right.  She seems too young to be moving in this direction.  I want that two and a half-year old back even if I have to take a binky in the forehead. 

Hanging with Maggie for 3 days straight!Ahh, but in thinking harder about it, I guess I don’t.  I guess I just want the affection back, and the desire to take refuge in my arms.  Intellectually, I know that how she is acting is healthy and a sign of confidence.  I remember reading an article a while back that talked about kids’ confidence levels.  A study had shown that kids who feel comfortable holding their ground with their parents (e.g., parent wants to leave but kid says she doesn’t want to leave) are typically more self-confident because their parents have given them the opportunity to not be fearful in standing their ground (now, there obviously comes a point where this self-confidence leads to bratty and obnoxious behavior and I am sure the study went on to find those kids are now occupying positions in Congress).  I think of this study when Maria acts this way to me, and chant in my head “I have made her a self-confident girl…I have made her a self-confident girl….” 

I wonder if I will feel as strongly when Mario begins to push away?  Or is it just a mother/daughter phenomena?  I harbor dreams of Maria changing this world in some way that suits her – I’d love if her suit involves curing cancer, feeding the poor, saving the environment.  But she can’t stay snuggled under her mother’s bosom and achieve any of those aforementioned feats or others.  I have the same dreams for Mario and can only assume, since he is glued to my hip, that I will feel much the same way when he decides to unravel the tie that binds us.  Maybe this process with Ri will lessen the sting a bit with Mario.  Or maybe it will be a different set of feelings that onset with that little guy.  I should have another couple of years before I find that out.

Is it really only 10:30 am?

The kids and I went to Cincinnati last night for a family wedding.  Grandma Meg and Peepaw joined us for the festivities along with Meg’s sisters and their kids.  Meg’s sister, Mindy and her husband Danny hosted the gala for their daughter Amy.  Amy is a down-to-earth, sporty, happy gal who seems utterly smitten with her new husband, Todd.  Todd seems like a carbon copy of Amy (minus the “gal” and add “guy!”).  They smiled throughout the wedding ceremony and had a blast at the reception (Todd did a dirty dance in front of Amy before taking off the garter and Mario and Maria were completely entranced). 

The family partying it upMario played around with four or five boys who all knew each other from Todd’s side of the family.  They did not invite him in but Mr. Mario asked his Aunt Kathy if she would introduce him to the boys, which she did, and it was over from there.  He fit right in when he wanted to play with them (the only bit of crying came when he collided with an 80 pound kid and got knocked into the side of the door).  Maria was perfectly happy not conversing with any kids, but rather, hanging out with the adults.  She sat with Meg’s cousin, Suzanne and her husband.  She enjoyed ribbing Suzanne’s husband about anything she could, and sitting close to Suzanne to talk about video games.  After Suzanne, she moved onto Kathy’s stepson, Miles and his fiancée, dragging Miles on the dance floor and out to the pond.  They were all wonderful with her, and very patient. 

After the wedding, we headed to my mom’s house to spend the night.  We petted Lou for a while since we had never been with him in his house.  He loved the kids.  We woke up at the break of dawn (6:45 am) and played with Lou and his tennis ball for an hour before getting ready to hit the road.  We had to go to Target first since Mario’s flip flops rubbed his feet wrong.  Next came McDonald’s for some quick breakfast.  Then, French Park. 

My old childhood park that I used to frequent with my best friend, Beth.  I love walking through that park.  My mom was quite impressed with it, too (as was Lou).  The trails are magnificent – patches of shade with huge fairy tale trees covering you, patches of bright sunlight with wildflowers, and patches of dark with troll bridges and ferns everywhere.  We walked the creek for a long time, too.  It had just enough walks to jump from to not get soaked but high enough standing water for the kids to get good splashes.  At the end of the trail, Maria took a good fall trying to climb onto a boulder and got a good chunk of skin off of her elbow and knee.  Nonetheless, as I always report, she is a machine and once the initial shock and cry hit, she was a trooper heading back to the car and into Grandma’s bathtub. 

On the way home, neither mom nor I was coherent.  We were exhausted from what felt like a “long day.” So how was it only 10:30 am?  Ridiculous.  There should be some rule that when kids get up so early and your day starts while most people are in REM sleep, you get to fast forward the clock 4 hours.  When we got home, the kids took and bath and played around.  Then we had to head up to Marx Bagels for some bagels and cream cheese (my favorite!). 

After bagels, we hung outside with Lou while the kids “spied” on us.  Julie got home in the meantime, and the kids begged to stay to see Baby Gracie.  She arrived a bit later and walked in the door exclaiming “Mary!”  How could I leave before hearing that punker-wunker call my name!?  The kids played downstairs while I cleaned and talked to Liz and Julie and helped Julie move coffee tables and tvs all around.  We left CIncy around 3:30 and within ten minutes, both Maria and Mario were sawing logs.  Out cold.  So I debated stopping at Pottery Barn outlet at Washington Courthouse but I could not resist.  When I stopped the car, and wiggled their legs to get up, they both bellowed “No!”  They cried and hit the seats with their feet.  They were pissed (now they get a taste of their medicine when they wake me up everyday at 6:30 am)! We finally made it into Pottery Barn (Mario on my right hip and Maria dragging beside me) only to find no good selection of rugs.  Ugh!

So, I treated them to McDonald’s Playland.  The Washington CH Playland just got renovated and it is actually quite nice.  Mario, again, made friends immediately with two other boys who were brothers.  Maria decided to stay by her mom because her side hurt from her fall.  After letting Mario play for a half hour we took off for Columbus.  Maria begged me from the back seat to let her give Mario the horn I bought him.  I bought it for him a week ago and told him if was good all week, he would get it.  Maria convinced me he had been good since he did not scream in the middle of the wedding, and he said “thank you” when Grandma Lolo gave him food.  Pretty high standards, heh?!

As soon as we stepped in the door, Maria grabbed the horn and gave it to Mario.  The whole neighborhood knew about the present because he honked it incessantly for ten minutes straight.  We hooked it on his bike (with training wheels) and took a two-mile bike ride to our old house and back.  When we got home, the kids rested to a tv show while I mowed the grass (which looked like the grasslands).  When I finished the lawn, Maria and I played baseball.  Mario watched his last Ben Ten.  We wrapped the night up with mac-n-cheese and chicken and two books about telling the truth and a pig going to camp.  Does it get any better than that? 

When I headed outside to take out the lawn clippings, my neighbor commented about how she couldn’t believe that I could mow the grass and water the lawn in such a speedy time.  I told her about our entire day and she laughed hysterically.  “Do you ever stop,” I believe she asked, but I was already at the top of the driveway grabbing the last lawn bag to put out front.

A Sunday

Highlights of our Sunday:

Wrestling with dad.

Eating bagels and cream cheese with Grandma Lolo at the counter of the Marx’s Bagel Shop and meeting the Bagelman in person!

Visiting Grandma Menkedick at her nursing home; reciting the ABC’s and telling a story to her (Mario); playing the Partly Cloudy movie for her and talking about school (Maria); just being near her and listening (me). 

Playing dress up at Grandma Lolo’s complete with a bright red pair of shoes and red sash (Maria).

Flexing chest muscles in Grandma Lolo’s kid friendly mirror and play fighting with himself (Mario). 

Seeing sweet Gracie-poo’s face beam when Maria and Mario walked in Aunt Julie’s front door and hearing her baby voice ask “Maria, do you want to play with me in the basement?”

Listening to Maria, Mario and Grace play mom, sister and brother, and watching Maria help Gracie go potty (she is getting to be such a big girl!).

Laughing with Liz and Aunt Julie and reminiscing about Grandma Heile.

Seeing Laura and listening to her explain to Maria that she must remember the names of nail polish colors on the nail polish bottle if she chooses to wear polish.  Maria did not know the name of the polish she was wearing; Laura told her that she was wearing Black on Black on her nails.  Laura explained that nail polish colors always had fun names.  Maria asked her what the name would be of the color of Laura’s scarf if it were polish.  Laura asked Maria what she would name it.  “Blueberry,” she responded.  Then Maria asked for Laura’s response.  “Blue lagoon” I believe she said.  Maria was intrigued.  The magic in those moments.

Eating Larosa’s pizza.

Driving home under the deep black sky and looking back to see my two precious, inspiring babes deep in sleep, heads limp, mouths open, breathing heavy.

Welcoming in the New Year

This New Year is being brought in with potato chips, Taco Doritos, Gatorade, Wii Sports and telephone calls to grandmas and grandpas. 

The girls dancing to Justin Bieber

We completed our last round of party hosting last night with Jon’s family coming over for an afternoon and evening soiree.  Three of Jon’s brothers came over with their respective families, which led to ten little ones tearing through the house and ten older ones eating appetizers and drinking wine.  The kids range in age from 11 to 3.  They get along fairly well with the older two playing mother hens and the middle ones (like Maria) only butting heads with them every once in a while.  The girls wanted to be on their own to dance to Big Time Rush but the boys kept bothering them.  We finally got the boys upstairs by enticing them with swords and shields.  My niece, Shari (who is a year older than me!) brought her daughter and her daughter’s son, Isaiah who is a few months older than Mario.  Mario and Isaiah always wrestle one another when they meet up.  Isaiah has a good ten pounds on Mario and probably a good ten inches but Mario enjoys a tough match.  Isaiah is actually pretty passive with Mario.   Mario doesn’t understand that he would be pummeled if Isaiah used his natural strength.  One of these days, Isaiah may show him how tough he is, and Mario may learn not to provoke these boys so much.   Shari’s daughters are the two mother hens, and are loved dearly by Maria.  She loves to go over to their house and play, and they always come up with fun things to do.

The adults talked about old times, movies seen, and Urban Meyer.  The simple act of being together brings enjoyment to Jon and me.  We are glutton for punishment with all of these parties this year between all of the mess in the kitchen and the basement and the kids’ rooms.  But the chaos is well worth it when you hear the laughter and happiness echoing throughout the house.  And Mario got a new shovel from Kevin and Margie – he will love using that with Jon this year!

My aunts!

This morning I took a long run and packed up Maria and her cousin, Alana for a trip to Cincy.  Jon stayed home with Mario.  They bought new phones for the house and a new putter for Mario.  Their day consisted of playing golf, watching tv, wrestling, and playing golf again.  The girls and I headed to Cincy to see my aunts (my Aunt Terrie and her two boys came in from Georgia) and our cousins.  They all gathered at my Aunt Julie’s house, and when we walked in, the cousins informed me that they were taking Maria and Alana and I was going with my aunts to get a facial.  Not bad news at all! 

My aunts and I went to Macy’s for the facial – they told me I needed one now that I was 40!  The cousins walked around the mall hitting the toy stores and Disney store.  Maria and Alana enjoyed teasing the boy cousins and slapping them around.  They put up with a lot from these gals. 

Maria and some of her cousins

The girl cousins give me no reason to fear leaving the kids with them – they have a way to make things fun but orderly.  It was a gift to have some alone time with my aunts and to get all pampered up.  We are so goofy together talking about how hot we are and how we’re looking 20.  I love them dearly.  And my cousins, I adore them for their love and commitment to family.  When we got home from facials, all of the cousins were working on a puzzle on my aunt’s floor.  Some were watching tv more than working on the puzzle but they all sat together ribbing each other and having a good, relaxing time.  They are good role models for Ri and Mario.

And that leads us to tonight.  I have been writing this blog off and on for the last three hours.  Besides eating chips, we played Scavenger Hunt, read books, and played on our electronic devices.  At one point, Mario played on my Iphone, Maria on my Ipad, and me on my computer.  Definitely a sign of the times.  I made us put the electronic devices away before the ball dropped though.  With five minutes to go, we sat on the couch together.  We watched the ball drop at midnight huddled in a mass and giving one another the first kisses of 2012!

Bringing in the New Year (Mario ditched the phone before the ball dropped!)